Allegedly | Columns

Your bylines are numbered

Journalists are losing jobs so fast it’s time they went into entrepreneur mode

Should I become an entrepreneur? Not the pakoda-making type. I mean a proper, full-blown entrepreneur with complete Series A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and last but not the least, Z funding. Don’t ask why a top-class journalist like me is having such thoughts. You know how bad things are for media people. Journalists are losing jobs faster than Opposition is losing MLAs. Everyone and his uncle is firing journalists. Even people who don’t own a media platform are firing journalists. They simply use guns. Either journalists are getting killed or their jobs are. If not killed, they’re getting arrested for things like tweeting, cracking jokes, or taking their job seriously enough to actually do it. In my opinion, only the last constitutes an offence serious enough to merit instant termination.

But so many journalists have lost their jobs in the last few weeks, it’s clear something else is going on. They would have lost their jobs even if they had stayed true to their time-honoured professional legacy of manufacturing consent by means fair or foul. Perhaps the reasons are economic.

No demand

Most people are smart enough not to want to pay for what wants to reach them anyway. Who do you think is more desperate: a pair of eyeballs in search of distraction or a 400-word distraction in search of eyeballs? If one major problem is that there is no demand for expensive, paid-for journalism, it’s complicated by the fact that it’s never been easier to do journalism. Anyone can do it, even you. All you need is a website name. Press releases and propaganda will rain down on you like a shower of cow urine.

Content is not king, it is dust. Like the dust in Delhi, it’s everywhere, enveloping everyone in its dry, choking embrace from which there is no escape. What do we need journalists for anyway? To curate and organise dust particles into value-added mud? And then sell it as a special kind of compost that will germinate the organic crop of wisdom in the mind of the idiot-consumer so he can make the sagacious choice of voting for Gau Mata in the general election?

Saving the masses

In India, there has always been, and will only ever be, just one person who can save the masses: the Great Leader. It’s no different for journalists. Because of their hubris, some of them take their time reading the headline on the wall. But they must acknowledge that their future is nothing but a microscopic drop of the divine grace emanating from the infinite compassion of the Great Leader.

As my father said to me recently, “Dei, your bylines are numbered!” He is convinced journalism has no future. So he forced me to attend a workshop organised by the son of a relative of a relative, a self-proclaimed “life coach”. The workshop promised to unleash the entrepreneur hiding inside me, much like the PM hiding inside every chaiwala.

It was a day-long affair at a sad four-star hotel. Some 200 people had signed up. I couldn’t tell how many were unemployed. But they were all there only because, as the trainer informed us, the era of jobs was over and you don’t have to be an ‘Apple’ to realise that, haha. There were only two kinds of people in this world: those who get a salary, and those who pay salaries. Which one did we want to be? The payer or the payee? Master or slave? Leader or follower? Hunter or hunted? Chowkidar or Pappu? The rousing answer from the participants was unanimous: “Chowkidar!”

“In that case,” the trainer said, “All of you apply for jobs as security guards.” I was joking. He didn’t say that. Instead he said, “Absolutely. Each one of you is the Chowkidar who has the key that can unlock a glorious future of limitless success, limitless wealth, and asafoetida.” And what’s this key? “Leadership! Just as there is an entrepreneur in each one of you, there is a leader in each one of you.” Nobody asked: if everyone is a leader, that would mean no one is a follower, and if no one is a follower, how can anyone be a leader? Anyway, just remember that leadership is the master key that can unlock the treasury of entrepreneurship and drown you in limitless success, limitless wealth and asafoetida, or something like that. I again couldn’t catch the last word, however hard I tried.

But I’m OK with limitless asafoetida so long as I get the other two as part of the deal.

sampath.g@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 11:36:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/your-bylines-are-numbered/article28100334.ece

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